JAY — Jay and Livermore Falls selectmen voted in separate motions during a joint meeting Monday to have town managers draft a resolution to support trail projects that will connect the two towns and beyond.
The two boards will meet again to consider approving the resolution.
The multiphase effort is expected to boost economic development, enhance the towns' recreation offerings and highlight the Androscoggin River.
Androscoggin Land Trust Executive Director Jonathan LaBonte gave a presentation on the Chisholm Trail project, which is a program of the trust, to both boards at Otis Ventures LLC, the former Wausau Paper mill.
One aspect of the projects is building a school-to-school trail that would go along the riverfront. Jay students would eventually be able to walk from their schools down French Falls Drive to connect to a former railroad bed that is becoming a multiuse trail. It would come out near Franchetti's Hometown Market in Jay and connect to another possible trail around the Otis Mill or through it along the river.
The latter trail would lead people to the Foundry Road Trail in Livermore Falls, which would eventually be extended to lead to Livermore Falls schools. Even if the two school districts consolidate, the trail would still lead to the athletic fields and make a good walk/bike path, trail supporters say.
If the old railroad bed is developed into a trail, it would allow for motorized and nonmotorized travel to connect to the approximately 13-mile Whistle-Stop Trail that runs from Jay to West Farmington.
The idea is to establish a network of trails that would allow travel from the Lewiston-Auburn area to Farmington and to Canton and continue on.
Monday's presentation was not a sales pitch to appropriate money in next year's budget, LaBonte said.
The joint resolution to support the effort is critical to get more money in the future, he said. There are also ways for communities to participate without actual dollars being exchanged, he said. There could be donations of time and land, easements and in-kind services.
The joint resolution could help bring back recreation on the river and find money to complete the trails. The initiative will also help people access the downtown areas, LaBonte said.
“I think it's exciting,” Jay Selectman Amy Gould said.
State Rep. Paul Gilbert, D-Jay, agreed. There used to be three sets of trails in the area and one of those was to park boxcars on. When he was growing up they played cowboys in the area, he said.
“This is fantastic. It could bring life back to this community,” Gilbert said.
It's bigger than town lines, Livermore Falls Town Manager Jim Chaousis said. “It's regional.”
“I think we need to look at what we can do together,” Livermore Falls Select Board Chairman Bill Demaray said. “This is a great start.”
Instead of the towns working individually, Demaray said, this is an opportunity to work together and save tax dollars.
Jay Board of Selectmen Chairman Steve McCourt agreed. The two towns already work together on other projects, including sharing highway equipment and services and recreation programs.
Tim DeMillo and Mary Howes, the husband and wife team who bought the Otis Mill, are also part of the project. They are committed to put a kayak landing on the river to allow travel from the mill to Pine Island off Riley Road in Jay, just below Verso Paper mill, DeMillo said. The couple is also committed to open the mill's gates to link the trails when the time is right as part of their effort to revitalize the mill and community, he said.